Ahmedabad: In an embarrassing situation for the ruling BJP in Gujarat, less than a fortnight to the two-phase local government polls, the party has not been able to zero in on candidates to contest elections to the Unjha municipality in its own pocketborough in the Patel-dominated Mehsana district.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been controlling the municipality for over a decade, saw all its sitting members refusing to seek re-election on the party’s ticket on the last day of filing nominations for the November 29 elections.
Some BJP leaders chose to file papers as Independent candidates.
Of the 155 nominations filed for 36 councillor seats in the Unjha municipality, 149 are Independents and six are contesting on Congress tickets.
Unjha town, which boasts of being home to Asia’s biggest market in spices, particularly cumin seeds, and also houses the temple of Umiya Mata, the presiding deity of the Patidars, was one of the hotspots of the reservation agitation of the Patels. It allegedly suffered the most after a police crackdown on agitators led by Hardik Patel following their August 25 mega rally in Ahmedabad.
Nitin Patel, a senior minister in the Anandiben Patel cabinet and state government spokesman, was the BJP in-charge for Mehsana but he could not persuade local leaders to contest the municipal elections.
Mehsana, the home district of the chief minister, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and BJP chief Amit Shah, has remained a BJP stronghold ever since 1984 when it provided the party one of the two Lok Sabha seats it won in the country after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi.
The agitating Patidars have displayed banners in many housing societies across the state, advising the BJP “not to come to beg for votes”.
Hardik Patel, who is still in jail in Surat on sedition charges, in a message through his father Bharat Patel, appealed to the “Patidars” to vote against the BJP in the local elections.
In the Surat Municipal Corporation, the BJP has bagged a women’s reserved seat without a contest on the last day of withdrawal of nominations for elections to the six city municipal corporations scheduled for November 22.
The nomination of the Congress candidate for the seat was rejected during scrutiny of papers on technical grounds and the party did not have a cover candidate keeping in mind such exigencies.